Microsoft has made it official: Xbox One owners will be able to share their game libraries with individuals not belonging to their families.
That such a headline would ever require writing, that such a clarification would ever require issuing, that the opposite would ever require consideration is a profound testament to the dizzying — debate as you will over whether or not it’s heinous or absurd — set of restrictions Microsoft has built around the Xbox One. Restrictions that many gamers are still trying to wrap their minds around in the wake of the console’s full unveiling at E3 2013.
We know that the Xbox One is designed to place restrictions on used games, at the very least indirectly; Microsoft has stated that developers will have the final say over the ability of their games to be played second-hand, as well as whether or not any activation fees will be associated with the process.
E3 2013 also saw Microsoft confirm long-standing rumors that the Xbox One would initiate an Internet-validation check every 24 hours, with Xbox president of interactive entertainment Don Mattrick condescendingly — and certain-to-be-infamously — telling gamers devoid of access to the Web (gamers like, you know, the large contingent of military personnel currently serving in combat tours overseas) that Microsoft had a product for them: “It’s called Xbox 360.”
So it was only natural that when Microsoft released a statement on its game licensing policies last week, a caveat explaining that game libraries could only be shared with up to 10 family members was presumed to be accurate. Why not, after all, with DRM being so clearly en vogue?
Speaking to Penny Arcade, however, Microsoft’s Phil Spencer shed a slightly different light on the policy. The Xbox One still limits library sharing to only 10 gamers, granted (and according to Ars Technica only one person can access the game files at any given time), but those gamers can still be anyone. Blood relative, distant cousin or stranger you decided to let in for the night (perhaps he’s just spent a year aboard a nuclear sub), no birth certificates will be required for extra-user access:
“It’s not ten different people all playing the game concurrently, but when you think about a real usage scenario, and we thought about it around a family, and I know certain people will create a family group of people that aren’t all part of the same family.
“And I do think that’s an advantage, and people will use that. I saw it on NeoGAF instantly, the Xbox Family creation threads, where people said ‘Hey be a part of my family’
“No birth certificates will need to be sent in! I do think that’s an advantage of the ecosystem that we have.”
It’s the rare Xbox One story surfacing out of E3 this week where Microsoft has traded perplexity for practicality. That being said, it’s still a slight respite for the console, with Sony’s PlayStation 4, which doesn’t impose used-game or connectivity restrictions, leaving the show as the resounding fan favorite.
A bit more than sharing is going to be needed for the company to prove it’s caring.
Xbox One releases November 2013 at $499.
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